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Trenton Minich's free throw finishes Cougars Tuesday after perilous weekend trip to Bend

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: JAKE MCNEAL - St. Helens senior forward Jacob Falk (52) lays up two of his 27 points.



In a double-overtime war of layups and 3-pointers Tuesday, Trenton Minich's free throw was the clincher against Canby.

The Lions senior guard, fouled on an inbound pass with 2.8 seconds left in the second extra period, missed his first attempt from the stripe but hit the second and put his side up 86-85.

"We went this far and I wanted to make it for my brothers," said Minich, who scored nine points. "It was the best place to be on a Tuesday night in St. Helens."

The Cougars' 3-pointer from the left shoulder beat the buzzer and appeared a heartbreaker, but the referees waved it off as Canby coach Craig Evans' timeout preceded the shot at 1.3 seconds.

The Cougars' final shot, inbounded from midcourt in front of St. Helens fans, came too late and the camoflauge-themed St. Helens student section flooded the court in celebration.

"It was really exciting, probably the most exciting since I've been here," said Jacob Falk, a 6-foot-6 senior forward who led all scorers with 27 points against an all-guard Canby side, the tallest player of which is 6-foot-3.

The Lions (3-2 overall) found themselves in their first overtime game since they fell 65-57 at Sherwood Feb. 14, 2012.

Their 86 points are their most since they won 84-81 at Sandy Dec. 15, 2015, and they've broken 80 points twice in their last four games.

St. Helens is unbeaten through three home games for the first time since it beat Scappoose, The Dalles and Class 6A Aloha in its 2012 Class 5A play-in campaign, and the Lions are off to their best start since they began 4-1 the same winter.

Canby (1-3) led 16-14 through a quarter Tuesday, but Drake Dow slashed to the basket through the Cougars' 2-3 zone and swished a 3-pointer off the dribble from the top of the arc to help the Lions lead 30-24 at intermission.

Chris Beatty's up-and-under layup from the left dazzled the Jungle Crew student section and St. Helens led 52-40 through three.

Canby seniors Skyler Castleman and Wade Brewer's 3's missed the mark in attempts to trim the deficit late in the fourth, and Rea ran the fast break for an Owen Wolfe lay-in and a 64-54 Lions lead.

Cougar freshman Diego Arredondo's 3 from the left corner nevertheless brought the Cougars right back to within a basket at 64-62 with 28.2 left and, though Dow split a pair of free throws at 24.4, neither St. Helens nor Canby could keep a handle on the ball until sophomore Ronan Gay nailed a left-corner buzzer beater 3 and forced 65-65 overtime.

"When they hit the first 3, we talked about how we should have fouled with a three-point lead," Minich said. "I closed out on the shot, but he made it."

Falk's lay-in at the left and Minich's left-corner 3 pushed the Lions up 70-66 through two minutes in the first four-minute extra period, but Cougars senior Riley Jones' two pairs of free throws tied it at 70-70 with 59.9 seconds.

Evans called for straight-up man defense before Dow's layup put St. Helens up 72-70 with 20 seconds.

Dow split a pair of free throws for a 73-70 lead at 10.3, and Castleman's 3 from the top left beat the horn and drew a second overtime, 73-73.

"We were talking [in the huddle] about switching on all screens and [not letting Castleman] shoot it at all costs," Falk said.

Beatty came open behind the Canby defense for a transition layup and an 80-77 lead at 1:17 in the second bonus frame, and did it again for an 82-77 advance at 52.6.

Rea hit two free throws and Jones made one of two as the referees issued a double technical, and the Lions' advance inflated to 84-78 at 52.6.

Castleman's top-right 3 sliced the lead to 84-81 with 41.2, but Dow hit one of two free throws for an 85-81 edge with 38 seconds.

Jones sank a top-left 3 and the Cougars trailed 85-84 at 20 seconds, and Arredondo split two free throws to tie it 85-85 with 12 seconds.

Dow's 18 points, Beatty and Joe Rea's 11 points and Owen Wolfe's 10 points helped St. Helens along.

Castleman's 26 points -- in his 8-of-23 performance from 3 as Canby hit 18 of 46 behind the arc -- led Canby, and Brewer, Arrendondo and Jones followed with 16, 15 and 13 respective points.

Just like in Tuesday's back-and-forth, the Lions' trip to Bend Friday, Dec. 8, wasn't easy.

"[Getting there] took over eight hours instead of the proposed four-to-five-hour drive it should have been," St. Helens coach Jordan Massinger said. "We started off by being stuck behind a train for 30 minutes right outside the school, then again for three-and-a-half hours 12 miles short of Government Camp on the side of the road without power. The replacement bus came and got us to Bend High School by 7:40 [p.m. and] we started the game after 8 [p.m.]. [No. 3] Bend [5-0] was nice enough to wait for us, which we greatly appreciated."

The Lava Bears (5-0) won the contest 61-44, and No. 4 Mountain View (4-1), Bend's cross-town Intermountain Conference rival, bested St. Helens 82-61 Saturday.

"We came out strong [against Bend] and took a two-point lead going into the second half," Massinger said. "Unfortunately, we fell flat in the third quarter: Bend took a 16-point lead and finished off with a 17-point win. I commend our guys for playing hard, but we just didn't have the energy and focus to give 32 minutes. We shot a miserable 14-of-51 from the field and 6-of-17 from the foul line. That just won't cut it."

Dow led with 12 points as he played all but two minutes.

"Falk was in major foul trouble all game," Massinger said. "In limited minutes, he posted eight points, 10 rebounds, five assists and a steal. If he can stay out of foul trouble, we will be tough for 32 minutes. Joe Rea had 11 points and seven rebounds. His sharpshooting is improving every game."

Saturday against Mountain View was similar.

"We came out strong -- again -- and took a one-point lead into the second half," Massinger said. "Unfortunately, we fell flat in the third quarter -- again. Mountain View took a 14-point lead into the fourth and finished off a 21-point victory."

Dow hustled to 15 points and five assists as he never came out of the contest.

"I love [playing the whole game]," said Dow, a senior guard. "I love basketball and love getting all the minutes I can. [You] just have to get in great shape in the offseason to prepare for it. We are short-handed [with a nine-man roster] and I am the primary ball handler."

Falk came up with 12 points and five rebounds, Rea went for 11 points and five rebounds and Minich emerged with 10 points.

"Jacob Falk and Owen Wolfe [6-foot-7] made [6-foot-7 all-state senior post Matt Van Tassell] work hard for his 24 points," Massinger said. "He is thought of by many as the best big man in 5A. With enough effort and the right kind of focus, I'd say we have two big men who are right up there with him."

The Lions, with a 69-point scoring average second only to No. 2 Crater (70), are scheduled to chase their first road win of the winter at The Dalles and all-state senior guard Dakota Murr (3-2) at 7 p.m. Friday.

"Mass is really positive and says we're going to win all of [our games]," Falk said.

ST. HELENS 86, CANBY 85 (2 OT)

Tuesday in St. Helens

C 16 8 16 25 8 12 -- 85

SH 14 16 22 13 8 13 -- 86

CANBY (1-3) -- Skyler Castleman 26, Wade Brewer 16, Diego Arrendondo 15, Riley Jones 13, Rizdin Miller 9, Ronan Gay 3, Ben Bailey 2, Jacob Huggins 1. 3-point goals -- 18 (Castleman 8, Arredondo 4, Brewer 3, Gay, Jones, Miller). Total fouls -- 27. Fouled out -- Brewer, Miller, Jones. Totals -- 28 11-23 85.

ST. HELENS (3-2) -- Jacob Falk 27, Drake Dow 18, Chris Beatty 11, Joe Rea 11, Owen Wolfe 10, Trenton Minich 9. 3-point goals -- 4 (Minich 2, Dow, Rea). Total fouls -- 23. Fouled out -- Falk, Wolfe. Totals -- 31 20-35 86.

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